Grappling from a Western Perspective – Part I

Much has been written about bushido and warrior philosophy in the martial arts. However, due to the Western penchant for things foreign almost everyone looks to the East for wisdom on these matters. Judo and its offshoot art Brazilian jiu-jitsu have their roots in Japan. Since then they have migrated to a worldwide audience and have been influenced in various ways by the cultures who study them. This is an inevitable consequence of Kano’s push towards internationalizing Judo and the Gracie’s push to spread jiu-jitsu.

It seems that Western practitioners forget that they too have a martial tradition. Simply because it was not codified early in texts such as The Art of War or The Book of Five Rings does not diminish its importance. Every early European culture had a grappling tradition, warrior tradition, and code of honor (chivalry) at least as valuable as that which has come from the East.

As a Western practitioner of a combination of Eastern arts of judo/bjj and indigenous Western wrestling and boxing I prefer to look to my own ancestors for wisdom. The question is where does one find the Western equivalent of those ancient Eastern treatises? I was inspired to write this series of posts by a short book Thunder from the North (McNallen 1993) which traces the development of the US Army’s Principles of War doctrine as the culmination of the Western mindset towards fighting and martial arts in general.

These 9 principles are similar in content to those used by most other Western nations and include:
• Objective
• Offensive
• Mass
• Economy of Force
• Maneuver
• Unity of Command
• Security
• Surprise
• Simplicity

Since my ancestors were not katana-wielding samurai but broadsword-wielding, Viking-descended Normans and wild warrior Celts, I am going to discuss how each of these applies to my personal philosophy of grappling and fighting in general. I will focus on each of these principles in turn in the next several blog posts.

Brian Jones, PhD

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